We had a potluck thing today at work, and one of the employees made bars with cream cheese in them:


I learned that they were NOT refrigerated, which sort of freaked me out, but then I remembered I've made cookies with cream cheese in them that stayed at room temp and I never got sick.

Yet the internet seems to be divided? Since cheesecakes need to be refrigerated? I can't tell what's right.

So now I'm worrying that I'm going to get some food-borne illness from this recipe because it wasn't refrigerated. I know unbaked cream cheese needs to be refrigerated, but tons of baked goods that "sit out" have cream cheese (like danishes and such).

I have seen tons of cookies that use cream cheese and people don't refrigerate those? Shouldn't this be the same thing?

  • It's going to depend on the ratios: a tiny bit of cream cheese and lots of sugar is very different to almost all cream cheese, slightly sweetened (as an extreme example). My similar but more general question (I'll link it in a moment) never got an answer - maybe this one, being more specific is easier to answer, or maybe not.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 20:27
  • It was 8oz which IMO is a pretty small amount to how big the actual dish was
    – Mercfh
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 20:28
  • Possible dupe of unanswered Which foods become shelf-stable on cooking and why?.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 20:28

1 Answer 1


Your question is not really answerable. Also, it is based on quite a few misconcceptions about how food safety works.

remembered i've made cookies with cream cheese in them...

You seem to think that you can predict, based on an ingredient, whether the final product is shelf stable, or not. This is impossible. The final product is either shelf stable or it isn't, but this depends on its physical properties as a whole, not on the presence of a single ingredient, or on the shelf stability of the most perishable ingredient, or some such thing. Somebody with a laboratory, a degree in food technology, and some free time on their hands can tell you whether these things are safe when out of refrigeration, or not. Nobody else can, especially not from just looking at the recipe.

cookies with cream cheese... cheesecakes ... danish's and such... Shouldn't this be the same thing

Related to the above. You cannot take a random recipe which is in some way similar to the one you are using, and predict shelf stability from it. There sometimes are classes of foods in which basically all members are shelf stable - for example, raw, dry rice is shelf stable, no matter if it's basmati or arborio - but outside of such special cases, each food has to be considered on its own.

internet seems to be divided

There is no single definition of what "safe food" is. On our site, we interpret it as safety regulations created by a government agency, as this takes it out of the completely subjective area, but even in this case, the rules of different agencies differ. If you interpret it as "I don't worry when I eat it", then you get just people's gut feelings, and they are all over the place. So, the expectation is to get divided opinions.

and I never got sick

This does not give us much information as to whether they were safe. Safe food is food which is virtually guaranteed to not make you sick. Unsafe food is food for which nobody knows the chance of making you sick, which is very different from food which always makes you sick.

now im worrying that im going to get some foodbourne illness

This is also a nonanswerable question. Since the bars are not known to be safe, the chance of you getting sick is unknown. Even if we knew that they are unsafe, the risk would also be unknown (see above).

Bottom line: you are not going to find any more (reliable) information than you already have. Not even after time has passed and you know that you haven't (or have) gotten sick. You may want to read up more on how food safety works, for future cases, but for now, you have to live with uncertainty.

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